Sun Valley Media Conference Photos: Mogulmania Day 3!

The Allen & Company retreat in Sun Valley wound down Friday, but not before we were able to catch glimpses of several moguls for the first time this year.

Familiar names like Jeff Zucker, Brad Grey, Jerry Yang, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Mike Ovitz, James Murdoch and Charlie Rose were all on display Friday, while wives like Diane von Furstenberg and Wendi Murdoch were snapped for the first time by the AP.

VIEW PHOTOS FROM DAY 1 HERE

VIEW PHOTOS FROM DAY 2 HERE

READ ALL SUN VALLEY 2009 COVERAGE

Below, check out the photos from the last day of the annual moguls’ retreat.


ManiaTV Founder Tries Bringing Studio Back From The Dead

You couldn’t ask for a more soap opera-inspired storyline. After infighting, layoffs and a failed fire sale attempt, digital content studio ManiaTV finally went belly up in March. But now founder Drew Massey is trying to resurrect it—albeit leaner, meaner and backed by far less venture capital. The NYT reports that Massey bought the ManiaTV brand and some of its old content back for a “small fraction” of the $26 million it had raised from investors since 2004.

The deal didn’t include the LA production studio ManiaTV relocated to last year, but Massey still plans to put out new series starting this fall—believing that he can fund production through small product placement deals and a “few million” in the bank. He tells the NYT that he will focus on “building a big branded business,” as opposed to the online video “platforms and networks” favored by ManiaTV’s previous backers (and most recent senior management).

Former CEO Peter Hoskins disagrees (what else would you expect, though?)—telling the NYT that the way Massey wanted to run things was “too expensive.” But Massey has managed to get the buy-in from some experienced media industry vets: Canoe Ventures CEO David Verklin and former NBC Entertainment exec Warran Littlefield, who have both joined ManiaTV’s board.


David Brooks: A Republican Senator ‘Had His Hand On My Inner Thigh’ For A ‘Whole’ Dinner Party (VIDEO)

Think Progress flags David Brooks telling a fantastic anecdote that supports his recent New York Times column lamenting the loss of dignity in America. Apparently, Brooks was at a dinner party and had the misfortune to sit next to a Republican senator who “had his hand on my inner thigh the whole time. I was like, ehh, get me out of here.”

Co-host John Harwood exclaims “what?” while Norah O’Donnell lets loose her trademark guffaw. Sadly, Brooks refuses to identify the touchy-feely senator.

WATCH:

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Operation Midnight Climax Depicts One of the CIA’s Dirty, Sexy Secrets

The 1950s, the CIA, the hookers it hired, and the LSD they dispensed to johns — a true story. That’s a heck of a pitch for anything, especially in the world of web video, which rarely trips into decades past.

Independent production company Strange Science LLC stumbled across the story of Operation Midnight Climax while writer Ramesh Thadani and director Zach Jordan were working at Videojug.com, where they were asked to research conspiracies for a potential video piece. There’s a full write-up on the operation at Wikipedia, but the Cliff’s Notes version is this — during the 1950s, as part of their experimentation with LSD and other mind-altering substances, the CIA hired prostitutes to dose their customers with drugs so that agents could observe the effects via two-way mirror.

Climax adds an element of fiction by depicting one of these brothels, run by Millie (Meredith Salenger, best known as Natty Gann from The Journey of Natty Gann), and its regulars, who have no idea that they’ve just become the subjects of a government trial in mind control. By putting the premise out front and center in a nicely rendered opening sequence, there’s minimal suspense in the first two episodes, which are mostly about the set-up of the experiment.

Instead, these episodes are more character study than narrative, establishing relationships and providing glimpses of backstory. So far, the most intriguing is that of the well-read African-American prostitute Bea (Vernetra Gavin), for whom turning tricks is a more dignified profession than any other career option available to her during that time period.

It’s a choice that plays well with the show’s deliberate pacing, which is just one of the ways the creators have managed to invoke the era they’re depicting. Anyone who’s ever tried to recreate a time period on a limited budget knows what a challenge it can be, but Strange Science produced the first three episodes for a cost somewhere “in the mid-four-figures,” according to Producer and Director of Photography Glenn Sauber.

It helps that the series is largely limited to one or two locations. The biggest expense was set construction, which pays off on-screen — the 1950s decor of the brothel is a huge factor in selling the show’s place in time. “We’re trying to find the fine line between impressing people by what we can do for so little and telling producers that we’ll work for nothing,” said Sauber.

Climax’s dialogue occasionally leans too heavily on the appropriation of 50s slang, but the lush, sepia-tinged cinematography alone is a draw, darting between a classic film noir look, the paranoia-inspiring perspective of the ever-watching CIA, and the actual drug-enduced hallucinations the men experience. Right now, the only thing missing is a stronger narrative arc, but it’s hard to blame Climax for that, given how it’s not even clear what exactly the CIA was hoping to learn from these experiments. The fact that they existed at all is drama enough, I suppose. It’s a little depressing to realize that the idea of our government experimenting on its citizens isn’t as shocking as it once was.



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Time and Space (On The Media: Friday, 10 July 2009)

Forty years ago the U.S. put a man (well, two actually) on the moon. The landing capped a decade of NASA trial-and-error, Cold War jockeying with the Soviets and negotiating an uneasy relationship with the press. Harlen Makemson, author of “Media, NASA and America’s Quest for the Moon” charts the ongoing coverage of the space program.

Do Unto Others (On The Media: Friday, 10 July 2009)

In 2004, Micah Garen was filming a documentary in Iraq when he was kidnapped by a Shi’ite terrorist group. The kidnappers released videos of Garen, threatening to kill him within 48 hours if the U.S. did not meet their demands. Garen talks about what it’s like when the press does report on your abduction, and discusses whether the media have two sets of ethics: one for their own, and one for everyone else.

Mr. Khrushchev Goes to Washington (On The Media: Friday, 10 July 2009)

In 1959, with the Cold War in full throttle and MAD the doctrine of the day, Nikita Khrushchev crisscrossed America in a whirlwind circus of a tour, from Harlem to Hollywood. Peter Carlson, author of “K Blows Top,” sifted through the newspapers of the day to piece together an account of the visit.